On 8 June 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine went missing on Mount Everest, within striking distance of the top. In 1999, American climber Conrad Anker came across Mallory's body, preserved in the ice, but the mystery remained tantalisingly intact: had the mountaineer reached the peak before he died?
Eight years later, Anker returned to Everest, retracing Mallory and Irvine's route in an effort to determine whether they could have gained the summit without modern climbing equipment.
It's a fascinating story, and Mark MacKenzie tells it well, getting to the root of Mallory's obsession with the mountain. If the Boy's Own accounts of dashing climbers' heroic battles with the elements are a little too reverential, then MacKenzie provides the necessary corrective in a chapter describing the anguish of loved ones left behind; Mallory's correspondence with his worry-stricken wife gives us a sense of the human cost of his ultimately tragic attempt to conquer what he called "the infernal mountain".